Dr Kai Boon Tan

Molecular mechanisms underlying the mammalian cerebral cortex  development.

Dr Kai Boon Tan

Postdoctoral Research Fellow - Price & Mason lab

Hugh Robson Building

15 George Square

Edinburgh, EH8 9XD

Contact details

 Work: +44 (0) 131 650 3264

 Email: Kaiboon.Tan@ed.ac.uk


Personal Profile

  • 2021 – Present: The University of Edinburgh Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Developmental Neurobiology
  • 2017 – 2021: The University of Edinburgh PhD in Developmental Neurobiology
  • 2015 – 2016: Imperial College London Master by Research in Pharmacology and Neuroimmunology
  • 2014 – 2015: Monash University Research and Teaching Assistant in Immunology
  • 2011 – 2014: Monash University BSc (1st Class Honors) Biomedical Sciences


I study the molecular mechanisms underlying the mammalian cerebral cortex  development. In particular, I am interested in how the master transcription factor PAX6 drives fate decisions in neural progenitors to ultimately generate functional excitatory glutamatergic neurons.

I employ multidisciplinary approaches including the cutting-edge single-cell transcriptomics, bioinformatics, organotypic culture and pharmacological approaches to tackle the aforementioned question. Lately, I began to venture into single-cell multiomics (scRNA-seq + scATAC-seq profiled from the same cells) approach to study the DNA accessibility and gene regulatory networks in developing cortical cells.



Epigenetic landscape representing cell fate specifications during cortical neurogenesis in control versus Pax6-cKO. (A) Conrad Waddington’s epigenetic landscape (1957) in which a multipotent cell represented as a pebble at the top of the hill rolls down the landscape, which segregates into a series of branching paths that represent cell fate decisions. (B) Gene regulatory networks (GRNs), represented as pegs underneath the landscape, are depicted to underpin the epigenetic landscape to regulate cell fate specifications. (C) PAX6 is normally required by the RGPs to drive the GRNs and thus uphold the unidirectional, irreversible landscape that leads to excitatory glutamatergic fates. (D) In the absence of PAX6, some ectopic GABAergic progenitors are pulled into a transient transition state that allows progenitors to either proceed down the neurogenic eGC lineage to become GABAergic interneurons, or revert to the cortical neuronal fate, differentiating into excitatory glutamatergic neurons.



[Poster presentation] Tan KB, Kozic Z, Dobolyi D, Manuel M, Mason J, Price D (2020) “PAX6 regulates cell fate in the developing embryonic neocortex” 14th EMBL Conference – Transcription and Chromatin. [link]

[Poster presentation] Tan KB, Kozic Z, Dobolyi D, Manuel M, Mason J, Price D (2020) “PAX6: a transcriptional guardian for glutamatergic fate in the developing neocortex” 12th FENS Forum of Neuroscience. [link][video]

Ong YS, Khaw KY, Tan Loh TH, Yew PN, Tan, KB, Yap WH, Tang SY, Low LE, Lee LH, Goh BH (2020) “An Overview of Bioactivities of Gedunin” Bioactive Natural Products for Pharmaceutical Applications vol 140. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-54027-2_16

[Oral presentation and conference proceeding] Tan KB, Reed D, Zetterqvist A, Nikolakopoulou Z, Toe Q, Kirkby N, Mitchell J (2016) “Safety screening for cytokine storm-inducing biologics using cryopreserved BOECs and PBMCs” Proceedings of the British Pharmacological Society. [link]